Lord, you are rich in mercy and lavish in your care of me. Your great name be praised.
Read MATTHEW 21:28–32
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’1
Rather than directly answering those challenging his authority, Jesus critiques their attitude with another vineyard story. A landowning father asks his son to spend a day laboring in his vineyard, but he refuses. Like the prodigal son, he violates the commandment to honor his father. Further, he was liable to be stoned to death!2 However, feeling regret, he ‘changed his mind’ (v 29) and went to work in the vineyard. The second son’s verbal response is ideal, ‘I will, sir’ (v 30). However, he did not go, so he lied to his father and broke the fifth commandment, becoming liable to punishment.
When Jesus asks the chief priests and elders which son did God’s will, rather than replying, ‘we don’t know’, as previously, they rightly recognize that the repentant son has done so. Their answer sets them up for Jesus’ criticism of their own failure to ‘repent’ (v 32) when hearing God’s Word.
Jesus applies the parable to two groups of Israel’s despised sinners. Like the first son, tax collectors and prostitutes are repenting and entering God’s kingdom.3 The leaders are not. Jesus returns to the previous topic of John the Baptist. His description of John’s coming affirms John’s status as a prophet. The Jewish leaders did not believe John or Jesus, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. In fact, Jesus was their friend.4 Their repentance was observed by the Jewish leaders and they should have rejoiced. Instead, they rejected John and Jesus. They are like the second son: despite their seeming religiosity, they are not doing God’s will.
We have been invited to work for God in his vineyard. Our response is repentance and obedience to the end. We must not become weary of doing good for it is those who endure to the end who will be saved.5
Ask God to expose those things in you that require repentance. Pray again the prayer we began with. Make the change. Persevere to the end.
Merciful One, I learn from this passage that doing is more important than saying. By the Spirit, empower me to be a doer of your will rather than just a big talker.
Last Updated on January 12, 2023 by kingstar